If individual white men sometimes cheated in land trades, as in other negotiations, the aggrieved side could not, and did not, regard this as the white man's policy.
Yet little by little the Indians came to distrust and hate the rival race. It did not matter to the son of the forest, even if he thought so far, that the neighborhood of civilization greatly bettered his lot in many things, as, for instance, giving him market for corn and peltry, which he could exchange for fire-arms, blankets, and all sorts of valuable conveniences. The efforts to teach and elevate him he appreciated still less. As has been said, he loved better to disfurnish the outside of other people's heads than to furnish the inside of his own. What he felt, and keenly, was that the newcomers treated him as an inferior, were day by day narrowing his range, and slowly but surely reducing his condition to that of a subject people. Dull as he was, he saw that one of three fates confronted him: to perish, to migrate, or to lay aside his savage character and mode of life. Such thoughts frenzied him.
The beautiful fidelity of Massasoit to the people of Plymouth is already familiar. His son Alexander, who succeeded him, was of a spirit diametrically the reverse. Convinced that he was plotting with the Narragansets for hostile action, the Governor and Council of Plymouth sent Major Winslow to bring him to court--for it must be remembered that Massasoit's tribe, the Pokanokets, had through him covenanted, though probably with no clear idea of what this meant, to be subject to the Plymouth government. Alexander, for some reason, became fatally ill while at Plymouth under arrest, dying before reaching home. The Indians suspected poison.
His brother Philip now became sachem. Philip already had a grudge against the whites, and was rendered trebly bitter by the indignity and violence, if nothing worse, to which Alexander had been subjected. He resolved upon war, and in 1675 war was begun.
We shall never certainly know to what extent Philip was an organizer. We believe correct the view of Hubbard, the contemporary historian, that he had prepared a wide-spread and pretty well arranged conspiracy among the main tribes of New England Indians, which might have been fatal but for "the special providence of God," causing hostilities to break out ere the savages were ready. Palfrey challenges this view of the case, but on insufficient grounds.
One Sausaman, an educated Indian, previously Philip's secretary, had left him and joined the Christian Indians settled at Natick. There were by this time several such communities, and also, according to Cotton Mather, many able Indian preachers. At the risk of his life, as he insisted, Sausaman had warned the Plymouth magistrates that danger impended. He was soon murdered, apparently by Philip's instigation. At least Philip never denied this, nor did he after this time ever again court friendly relations with Plymouth, which he had constantly done hitherto. On the contrary, re-enforcements of strange Indians, all ready for the war-path, were continually flocking to his camp, squaws and children at the same time going to the Narraganset country, manifestly for security.
The Plymouth authorities, preparing for war, yet sent a kind letter to the sachem advising him to peace. In vain. At Swanzey, the town nearest Mount Hope, Philip's home, Indians at once began to kill and ravage, and Majors Bradford and Cudworth marched thither with a force of Plymouth soldiers. A Massachusetts contingent re-enforced them there, and they prepared to advance. Seeing it impossible to hold his own against so many, Philip crossed to Pocasset, now Tiverton, and swept rapidly round to Dartmouth, Middleborough, and Taunton, burning and murdering as he went. He then retired again to Tiverton, but in a few days started with all his warriors for central Massachusetts.
Here the Nipmucks, already at war, which indicated an understanding between them and the Pokanokets, had attacked Mendon. The day after Philip joined them there was a fight at Brookfield, the Nipmucks and their allies being victorious. They proceeded to burn the town nearly entire, though the inhabitants who survived, after a three days' siege in a fortified house, were relieved by troops from Boston just in the nick of time.
The Connecticut Valley was next the theatre of war. Springfield, Hatfield, Deerfield, and Northfield were attacked the last two having to be abandoned. At Hadley the onset occurred on a fast-day. The men rushed from their worship with their muskets, which were ready to hand in church, and hastily formed for battle. Bewildered by the unexpected assault, they were on the point of yielding, when, according to tradition, an aged hero with long beard and queer clothing appeared, placed himself at their head and directed their movements. His evident acquaintance with fighting restored order and courage. The savages were driven pell-mell out of town, but the pursuers looked in vain for their deliverer. If the account is correct, it was the regicide, General Goffe, who had been a secret guest in the house of the Rev. Mr. Russell.
He could not in such danger refrain from engaging once again, as he had so often done during the Civil War in England, in the defence of God's people.
From Hadley a party went to Deerfield to bring in the wheat that had been left when the town was deserted. Ninety picked men, the "flower of Essex," led by Captain Lothrop, attended the wagons as convoy. On their return, about seven o'clock in the morning, by a little stream in the present village of South Deerfield, since called Bloody Brook in memory of the event, the soldiers dispersed somewhat in quest of grapes, then ripe, when a sudden and fatal volley from an ambush was delivered upon them. The men had left their muskets in the wagons and could not regain them. Lothrop was shot dead, and but seven or eight of his company escaped alive. A monument marks the spot where this tragic affair occurred.
So early as July, 1675, Massachusetts and Connecticut, acting for the New England Confederation, had effected a treaty with the strong tribe of the Narragansets in southern Rhode Island, engaging them to remain neutral and to surrender any of Philip's men coming within their jurisdiction. This agreement they did not keep. After the attacks on Springfield and Hatfield in October, great numbers of the Pokanoket braves came to them, evidently welcomed. To prevent their becoming a centre of mischief, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Plymouth despatched a thousand men to punish the Narragansets. They met the foe at the old Palisade, in the midst of a dense swamp in what is now South Kingstown, Rhode Island. The terrible cold which rendered this Narraganset campaign so severe had turned the marsh into a bridge, and at once on their arrival the soldiers, weary and hungry as they were from their long march, and spite of its being Sunday, advanced to the attack.
Massachusetts was in front, then Plymouth, then Connecticut. Long and bitter was the fight. The Indians, perfect marksmen, took deadly aim at the leaders. Five captains were killed outright and as many more mortally wounded. The fort was taken, re-taken, and taken again, the whites at last, to make sure work, setting fire to the wigwams. The storming party lost in killed and wounded one-fifth of its number. This Swamp Fight, as it was called, broke forever the strength of the Narragansets, the tribe and its allies dispersing in all directions.
See also: 1690-1697